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Controversy over China’s Repatriation of South Korean POW to the North

Controversy over China’s Repatriation of South Korean POW to the North

Posted January. 27, 2005 22:48,   


Suspicions are growing that Han Man-taek (72), a South Korean soldier taken prisoner by the North during the Korean War, was repatriated to North Korea as a result of the South Korean government’s delayed response.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on January 27, the Chinese government recently notified the Korean government that it repatriated the South Korean POW arrested by the Chinese police on December 27 of last year, concluding that he is a regular North Korean defector.

However, a civic group assisting North Korean defectors, which tried to help Han come to Korea, argued, “There is a good chance that Han is still in China,” fueling controversies.

An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in an informal briefing that day, “The Chinese government had already repatriated Han to the North before December 30 last year when it received the Korean government’s request to send him to the South. Beijing notified Seoul on January 26 that it took such action according to domestic law as it recognized Han as an illegal entry (not a South Korean POW).”

Han was arrested by Chinese police on December 26 last year at a hotel in Yanji, China, while staying there to meet his South Korean relatives. Han’s family asked help from the Ministry of National Defense and it asked the Foreign Affairs Ministry on December 30 to request cooperation from the Chinese government, the official said.

The official also added that the Foreign Affairs Ministry sent an official note to the Chinese Foreign Ministry via the Korean Embassy in China on December 30 upon receiving the message from the National Defense Ministry, and also took every necessary action. But he remained tight-lipped about the date Han’s family asked help from the Ministry of National Defense.

In case the Ministry of National Defense had been slow in taking actions although Han’s family notified the ministry of the matter right after Han was arrested, there is a considerable chance that the ministry will face the demand that it should take the responsibility.

Meanwhile, Han’s family and civic groups supporting North Korean defectors responded, “If the Chinese government’s argument is true, the repatriation of Han was completed in just one or two days after the arrest, which is actually impossible,” adding, “We do not buy Beijing’s explanation.”

Hyong-gwon Pu bookum90@donga.com ysh1005@donga.com